The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans what may be to some Christians a well-known passage:
…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The giving of ourselves to God’s purpose (a sacrifice) and to worship Him requires us to know the times we live in. In order to be transformed by mind renewal like the Apostle wants us to be, we must not be conformed to the world. The end goal is to know the will of God, and then presumably to do it. We have to first know what not to believe and how not to live and this is behind the not being conformed to this world part.
The “world” doesn’t get an admiring treatment in the New Testament. Jesus and John both speak at lengths about it – negatively. It is the sinful system in which we live. The world referenced here by Paul, though, does not mean quite the same thing. The word used is probably best translated as “the times we live in” rather than “world” (the word is where we get our English word eon meaning an era of time). In short, we’re not encouraged to just reject the world in a general sense. We’re to resist conforming to the very specific and culturally unique ways our times and culture go against God’s Kingdom rule.
We need to know our times. We need to know in order to resist just “going with the flow” or “following the current” of our day. We need to be uniquely aware of our culture and be non-conformist.
In our late-modern, 21st Century, Western world self-autonomy is king. No one can/should tell you what to do/not do is you “feel” otherwise. Individual achievement, gaining of comfort and personal affluence, and unhindered consumption are the order of the day. Work, buy, consume your way to the True You. Unhindered ability to choose is demanded as we are certainly the most consumeristic people to ever walk this earth. Even the spiritual is atomized and packaged for the market. Virtue, the kind that requires long and intense cultivation and self-denial, is looked down upon. Fulfillment replaces it. We don;t know what it means to be human anymore, or even who is to be considered human. Anything we feel inside we must give life to. Truth is whatever seems true to us (usually what is most convenient).
These and more are the ‘spirit of the age’. It was not always this way. Not that other times/cultures were better – they just had different failings. We must know where/when we live in history and resist everything that runs counter to the Kingdom of God. How do we live in line with the Kingdom of God? Paul describes it in short order.
Know where you live. Know when you live. And also know that there is a Lord of History who is over every time and place. He has appointed his people to live in our time and his will can be discerned.